In 1998, Deputy Kyle Dinkheller was fatally shot during a traffic stop. The aftermath left his family and colleagues heartbroken, but his death was not in vain. The incident brought on a deeper look into police training, agency culture, and much more. In this way, Deputy Dinkheller has saved lives even after his passing.
One of the first officer involved critical incidents recorded on a dashcam, 22-year-old Dinkheller struggled to control Vietnam combat veteran Andrew Brannan. Eventually Brannan retrieved a gun from his vehicle and ultimately shot and killed Dinkheller. You can watch the full video here.
It is important to keep in mind that officers had different tools in 1998. Almost no officers carried ECW / CEW devices and the use of a baton (like the one Dinkheller used) was more common. Still, there were several lessons to be learned by future officers, making this event more than just an unfortunate story.
The new course “My Story: Kyle Dinkheller” gives officers a different perspective of the incident that has been in so many training videos. The coursework is accompanied by a true-to-life scenario with more than 50 branching options. The traffic stop scenario allows for the officer to use de-escalation, less lethal tools, or lethal force depending on what the situation requires.
To obtain this coursework, you must be a current VirTra customer and on an Annual Service Plan. For more information, visit this webpage.
We talk A LOT about training in law enforcement. Academy training, the field training program for new officers, annual training, specialized training…heck, even this training article you’re reading right now! But here is the brutal truth: we don’t train enough. Not even close to what we should be doing.
Want a recent example? In 2022 there was an active shooter incident in Uvalde, Texas. After the incident, there was a lot of talk about how officers responded at the scene. An investigation into the responding officers training found that half of them have never been through active shooter training.
If we all agree that training is so important, then why don’t we do more? Why do officers in the United States fall so far behind their counterparts around the world when it comes to training hours? Money.
A recent study found that 97% of police agencies budgets went toward salary and benefits, leaving 3% for all other expenditures, including training. (Urban Institute, n.d.) In recent years there has been a call for agencies to spend more money on training their officers, but we are still not where we should be.
Now, let’s look at how much time a recruit may spend in an academy for their training. In the U.S., the average length of basic police training is around 800 hours, or 20-22 weeks. (Emily D. Buehler, 2021) I wanted to know how this compared to other jobs that had required training, so I looked a few of them up. To get your barber license: 1500 hours. To be a licensed plumber: 4 years of experience.
Ok, ok, so maybe a barber needs more hours than an officer. Surely, we’re in line with the rest of the world when it comes to officer training. Right? Not. Even. Close.
Canada requires around 1,000 hours. England is between 2,000 and 2,500 hours. 3,500 hours in Australia. And in India, Finland, and Dubai, you’re looking at around 5,000 hours of training to become an officer.
Something doesn’t seem to add up. Why would we want police officers out there without a significant amount of training? Ok, yes, officers need 2 years of secondary schooling as well, but think about how much of those two years really falls into “training” and is useful on the job.
As trainers, we need to speak up and demand that more time and resources are available to properly train officers. Multiple studies show that more training makes it safer for officers and the people they interact with. It also reduces liability on the city, county, or state that the officers work for, since well-trained officers are less likely to be sued.
If you can’t get more money, you can still get more training in. Roll-call training, mid-shift training, and online classes all can be done for little to no cost. Training doesn’t have to come in 4-hour blocks. 15 minutes here and there can really add up. If you want to send officers to training that may have a financial impact, check with your neighboring departments to see if there may be a discount for larger groups.
If you’re interested in simulation training, which can be very cost effective, look for grants that can help fund the purchase of a VirTra simulator. With the IADLEST certified V-VICTA® training curriculum included, your officers can spend less time planning and preparing for classes, and more time doing the training.
Stay safe. Stay dedicated.
Emily D. Buehler, P. D. (2021). State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2018. U.S. Department of Justice.
Urban Institute. (n.d.). Criminal Justice Expenditures: Police, Corrections, and Courts. Retrieved from Urban.org: https://www.urban.org/policy-centers/cross-center-initiatives/state-and-local- finance-initiative/state-and-local-backgrounders/criminal-justice-police-corrections-courts- expenditures
Courts have been hearing cases about failure to intervene for years – as far back as 1972. All courts have ruled that officers have a duty to intervene when there is a violation of a person’s constitutional rights. This includes during excessive or unnecessary application of force.
There are various reasons people may not intervene when a fellow officer is acting out of conduct. Maybe they don’t know they should, or they freeze up. Sometimes there is a negative culture in the agency that prevents them – consciously or unconsciously – from reporting an incident or stopping the offense.
The why, when, what, and how are all important to know when discussing an officer’s duty to intervene. When training, we look at past examples of what went wrong, then adjust accordingly in order to avoid making the same mistakes. Instructors must also show examples where proper intervention took place in order to see how these applications can work in the real world.
When you fail to intervene, it does not only affect the victim, it affects both legally and morally, plus the entire agency may be subject to distrust from the community. It goes against what is an officer’s code of conduct, as they joined the force to protect the community they serve.
As we have seen over the years with various failure to intervene cases, there is a national (and sometimes international) spotlight when things go wrong. These include notable incidents such as the Rodney King and George Floyd cases. In both, one or more officers allowed an instance of unnecessary or unreasonable amount of force to occur and continue.
The most important reasons why duty to intervene matters:
Despite rules being in place, issues can still happen and it is important to understand why. Your department should place value in those who come forward when something is wrong, but occasionally, there is a “code of silence” or people become worried of repercussions for reporting someone.
Nobody should have to fear retaliation for doing the right thing. Some agency cultures can make officers feel that they cannot report someone who is higher in seniority, or that they will be treated like a “snitch.” These are things that can be discussed with officers of all ranks, ensuring everyone knows that duty to intervene applies to everyone regardless of rank or status.
Lastly, leadership influences the success of policies. If it’s all lip service and things don’t actually change, nothing is accomplished. In fact, not sticking to the policies you create and discuss can lower officers’ trust in their leadership. Supervisors should enforce the policies and create a culture of feeling empowered to step up when seeing something wrong.
Officers should detect the need to intervene early in the event before trouble starts. Signs of anger and use of profanity could indicate that the officer is starting to let their emotions get the best of them. The EPIC model (ethical policing is courageous) suggests using a 10-code that can signal to the other officer that they need to calm down. “Sgt. Smith, 10-12!” or similar can get their attention without alerting others or causing embarrassment.
VirTra has given its law enforcement clients an opportunity to practice their understanding of when to intervene. Certified in early 2023, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander” gives users an interactive and engaging way to learn. It combines training videos and multiple immersive scenarios to give officers the experience in a safe learning environment.
Professional intervention is important and is used in other fields besides policing, even in medical and aviation settings. It can save your job, your partner’s job, and the wellbeing of the community you serve. If you would like to get started with VirTra and begin training Duty to Intervene and other important topics, contact a specialist.
EPIC – Ethical Policing Is Courageous. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://epic.nola.gov
Galindez v. City of Hartford (U.S. Dist LEXIS 17592 2003).
Law enforcement comes into contact with a plethora of different types of people daily. Because of this, it is necessary for them to receive as much training as possible on how to respectively interact with each unique individual they might encounter.
Those on the autism spectrum may be mistaken with a different type of case when they come in contact with law enforcement – such as drug use. According to a study done from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, by age 21, one in five young adults with autism had been stopped and questioned by police¹. This a why officers must be trained on how to identify and interact with individuals on the spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can make communication and social situations difficult for those diagnosed. Individuals may also display behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking back and forth, avoiding eye contact, resistance to direction, and more. But because no two cases are alike, there is no “stereotype” to autistic behavior. This makes it that much more important for officers to be educated on what autistic behavior might look like and how to respond accordingly.
VirTra understands the importance of law enforcement receiving this kind of training. VirTra partnered with the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) to create a curriculum for officers to learn the signs and learn the various ways to respond to a call with someone on the spectrum.
This partnership was our way of ensuring that our curriculum contained accurate information regarding ASD and would effectively support both officers and those diagnosed with ASD.
Officers can receive 2 hours of certified curriculum through the VirTra simulators. There is walkthrough training with SARRC CEO Daniel Openden and additional scenarios for officers to put their new skills to the test. All of the actors in the scenarios actually have autism, giving officers real life examples of autistic behavior on a scene.
VirTra now has two ways for you to access this training! If your agency is looking to purchase a simulator, this curriculum comes along with it (and so many more)!
Not ready to purchase a system quite yet? You can access the course by signing up for Certified Training Alliance , an online learning platform for First Responders!
If you would like to learn more about VirTra’s curriculum and simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.
There’s no such thing as a professional bystander. You can’t consider yourself a “professional” if you aren’t going to take action when you see something wrong being done by a co-worker. In law enforcement, your failure to intervene could result in discipline, losing your job, being sued civilly or even being charged criminally.
Not only can this affect the individual officer, but it also has a direct effect on the public perception of law enforcement as a whole. These types of incidents thrusts law enforcement into the national spotlight. A spotlight that has played a role in American’s confidence in law enforcement dropping to 48%.
What does it mean to fail to intervene? In a nutshell, it means that an officer who purposefully allows a fellow officer to violate a person’s Constitutional rights may be prosecuted for failure to intervene to stop the Constitutional violation. (Department of Justice, n.d.)
The next question you might have is, “Who does this apply to?” When it comes to an officer’s duty to intervene, courts have stated that it applies to EVERY officer of EVERY rank, including all levels of command staff. (Putman v. Gerloff, 1981). The duty to intervene even carries across situations that might involve officers from different agencies working together.
Courts recognize that not all situations can be stopped by an intervening officer. For example, an officer that runs up to a suspect and punches them before you even had time to realize what was happening. In cases like this, courts recognize that an officer does not always have an opportunity to stop the other person’s action. While you may not be able to stop the action when it occurs, you still must follow through with reporting the unconstitutional act in an appropriate and timely manner.
Failing to take action is only half of this discussion. The other half must deal with HOW you should take action. Many officers have never been exposed to this type of training, so they are unsure on what their options are, as well as what their obligations might be.
But don’t worry, VirTra has you covered!
In our upcoming V-VICTA® curriculum, “Duty to Intervene: No Such Thing as a Professional Bystander,” we will give your agency all the tools needed to work through or even avoid a circumstance where officers need to intervene.
You will learn how having the correct policies in place can help avoid these types of situations. It also discusses the types of training officers should stay up to date on, as well as best practices that have worked in other agencies.
Included with the curriculum is a set of custom-made videos for students and instructors to watch and discuss how they would handle what occurred in the videos. There will also be brand new scenarios that were designed around the duty to intervene training. The new scenarios include a vehicle contact, a suspicious person, and a large-scale protest. The entire course can be done within your VirTra simulator and can provide your officers with 2 hours of IADLEST certified training.
Stay Safe. Stay Dedicated.
When training your officers, it is a priority to ensure that they receive quality de-escalation training with a curriculum that contains applicable and reliable knowledge. Creating your own curriculum is a process – it takes time, it takes money and both of those are valuable things that you would like to save! On the other hand, when looking at purchasing a curriculum, there is a chance that some courses may have not gone through a certification de-escalation training for police process that meets State and POST requirements for de-escalation training.
With all these factors to consider, you may be wondering what the right answer is. That is where VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum comes in. Our curriculum mitigates 60+ hours of research, prep and approvals of instructor man hours per one hour of finished curriculum. It also optimizes training session time for maximum learning.
On top of those benefits, VirTra puts our V-VICTA courses through a rigorous approval process with IADLEST. IADLEST offers the National Certification Program (NCP) of which sets a high standard in providing quality education for law enforcement nationwide. This means that all of our courses are equipped with extensive training materials for your team to work through.
NCP certified courses are also accepted by all participating POST organizations providing a trustworthy, time and cost-effective way for your officers to earn their certification de-escalation training for police.
VirTra is also the only simulator company that provides a certified curriculum for law enforcement, which is free when included with our training simulators.
In our training simulators, officers can put their certification de-escalation training for police to practice with intensive training scenarios. Our professionally-produced scenarios include real actors simulating real-world situations. Most of the scenarios contain on average over 85 different branching options based on the officer’s actions. In the scenarios, trainees must use quick decision-making skills to de-escalate the situation to the best of their ability.
The additional scenario training adds immense value to the curriculum by allowing officers to test their classroom knowledge in a stress-inducing environment, preparing them for the real-world.
If your department does not have the current means for a VirTra simulator but still wants to experience our V-VICTA curriculum, you have another option!
VirTra partnered with other industry-leading partners to develop Certified Training Alliance (CTA). CTA is an online training program for law enforcement that officers can train through at their own pace, wherever they want! Including certified courses generated from our V-VICTA curricula such as Autism Awareness, Crisis De-escalation, 10 different Mental Illness courses, and more.
You may also find courses from Force Science and Tony Blauer. It’s FREE to sign up and browse the courses online.
…and if you want to learn more about online training program for law enforcement and VirTra’s V-VICTA curriculum, contact a VirTra specialist today!
Just as police officers go through intensive training on skills such as firearm manipulation and de-escalation, peace officers must also. Though the positions of certain peace officers may look different than a police officer, they still are protecting the public, enforcing the law and, depending on their position, carrying firearms.
Whether a state trooper, detention officer, border patrol, or even game warden, proper peace officer training is crucial in keeping communities safe and getting people home safely.
VirTra’s training systems provide various scenarios and curriculums to educate and train those who keep us safe.
When protecting the public, there is always the possibility that peace officers will face a situation where they need to use quick decision-making, situational awareness, and other important skills that VirTra training simulators put to the test.
VirTra’s V-VICTA® curriculum contains various de-escalation scenarios dealing with mental illness, emotionally disturbed people, autism awareness, and more that officers may come in contact with when working. Our curriculum provides 60 hours of nationally certified coursework including PowerPoints, manuals, pre-tests and post-tests. Instructors have all the necessary tools to instill proper training and knowledge transfer to its students.
With different branching options for every scenario, officers can explore different ways that their decisions affect people and themselves. With this, they can learn from both their mistakes and successes.
It is necessary for all peace officers to properly train with their firearms in the case that they will need to utilize it on a call. VirTra provides an array of firearms training for peace officers to hone in on their skills.
This peace officer training might include marksmanship, weapon transitions, and even gauging the right times for them to draw their firearm. VirTra’s firearm training is the most accurate in the industry. It even includes structured scenario debriefs for trainers and officers to analyze their skills.
Our curriculum and simulators are an effective and educational addition to any peace officer training. Those who protect us deserve great training that is proven to work and VirTra is just that.
To learn more about the V-VICTA® curriculum and our simulators, contact a VirTra specialist.
You’re on an active shooter case and your partner has taken a shot to the leg. The shooter is not yet contained and you have to handle this situation as quickly, but carefully, as possible. Your partner is in need of a tourniquet but you have to keep your guard up and keep your eye out for the threat all at the same time.
Remaining focused and staying calm is key in this situation because incorrectly applying a tourniquet could potentially make the bleeding worse. In some cases, you may have a third officer there to guard your back, other times you may need to call for back-up. Being able to quickly assess the situation and then find the solution are the most important parts in assuring the safety of everyone involved, including yourself.
It goes without saying that officers can’t be expected to walk onto a live scene knowing exactly how to respond without being trained. For example, in a case like this, tourniquet application under threat is extremely valuable knowledge for officers. That is where our scenario-based training comes into play.
The scenarios for this topic include teaching officers how to apply a tourniquet on themselves in some cases and someone else in others, while simultaneously protecting everybody from the threat. It also educates officers on the different types of tourniquets (R.A.T.S, C-A-T, and SOF-T) and even covers ways to reduce blood loss in the moment.
Officers are able to fully immerse into our tourniquet application scenarios as if the scene described above was actually happening to them. They also are able to explore the different branching options and see the results of the different actions that they take. This helps them learn exactly what to or what not to do in that situation.
We are committed to helping officers get home safely every day and we developed our immersive law enforcement scenarios in order to play our part in making that happen. Our tourniquet application scenario is just one of many that we have created to help officers in their training.
Including our curriculum into your department’s training regimens would help ensure that your officers show up ready for anything and are fully equipped with all of the knowledge they need to keep your community and themselves safe.
To hear more about the training we offer, contact a VirTra specialist.
Behavioral health training is very broad, yet the topics are specific. Behavioral health and mental illness cover a critical range of topics, diagnoses and states of mind that every officer must be familiar with.
What comes to mind when you hear “behavioral health” or “mental illness”? Often, people think of extremes, such as suicide or schizophrenia. The term “behavioral health” includes depression, anxiety, trauma and PTSD—illnesses officers are more likely to encounter in the field.
Knowing that behavioral health’s range covers illnesses that are more commonplace in addition to those rarer, it is easy to see how 1 in 5 American adults currently live with a behavioral health issue. Officers may encounter those with a mental illness at any time, so they must know how to recognize the various signs and the proper ways of connecting.
To make training on this expansive topic easy, VirTra created “Mental Illness Training: A Practical Approach”, a nationally-certified course that teaches officers how to recognize and interact with these subjects. This V-VICTA® curriculum includes 15 certified training hours through ten lessons, along with corresponding presentations, tests, realistic video scenarios and more for well-rounded training.
The topics covered in this 15-hour course include:
Departments are encouraged to teach this topic more in-depth. It is not heavily taught nationwide, despite every community having members with a mental illness. Start improving community safety, officer knowledge and help for all. Learn more about this training and how to implement it into your regimen by contacting a VirTra representative.
Imagine yourself in a rapidly evolving situation with an irate subject. You only have a limited time to properly take control of the situation by de-escalating or using the appropriate level of force. One mistake can cost lives – your own and others. Experienced officers have learned to navigate difficult situations under stress, but can always benefit from refresh courses. Trainees and new recruits need hundreds of learning opportunities to develop these crucial skills.
In order to learn and practice the skills needed, law enforcement officers must practice in a similar circumstance. In our case, a realistic, stress-inducing environment. Trainees also benefit from learning in classroom settings in order to learn the foundation and the basics of actions. VirTra combines both the realistic environment with nationally-certified classroom training in a revolutionary program called V-VICTA®—Virtual Interactive Coursework Training Academy.
V-VICTA is designed to teach, train, test and sustain both trainees and officers in a variety of critical, life-saving skills. Instructors receive an entire training package for each course—slide presentations, lesson plans, tests, corresponding simulated scenarios and more. This allows instructors to teach the concept in the classroom, then immediately train the skill in the simulator. Best of all, V-VICTA curricula comes free with all law enforcement simulators, simultaneously easing the financial burden on departments while providing high-quality modern training.
From Autism Awareness to Red Dot Optic Training and Sustainment, VirTra ensures every course has ample information provided by in-house subject matter experts, partners and other industry experts. In addition to simulation science, our partners also provide us with new information, studies and insights—such as our partnership with SARRC for our Autism curriculum—which in turn is passed on to our clients and their officers.
Think of all the steps you have to take to create curriculum, let alone have it certified. You have to write lesson plans, research topics and have the course reviewed to ensure clarity. If you want to nationally certify it, you have to submit it for review and make necessary corrections in order for it to meet training standards. All of this takes time and requires spending.
Many training simulation companies would stop at simply creating it, but VirTra does the work of certifying the coursework for agencies, alleviating some pressure. All V-VICTA courses are nationally-certified through the IADLEST National Certification Program™ for POST Certification, which sets the national training standards for curriculum certification across 36 states. To ensure only the highest quality training receives this certification, each course is critically reviewed by IADLEST members and must then pass the rigors of their independent review process.
With all V-VICTA materials bearing the NCP seal, instructors know they are receiving quality training materials, thus saving time and money from creating their own coursework. In fact, as of May 2022, VirTra offers 82.75 hours of V-VICTA training. Because 1 hour of curriculum takes an average of 50 hours of research, preparation and approvals, VirTra’s offering of 82.75 hours of training saves departments roughly 5,378.75 man-hours. Imagine how much more can be accomplished as an instructor when you save more than 5,000 hours! Because these curricula are both POST approved and nationally-certified, departments automatically receive training hours whenever the curriculum is taught. Officers who complete the training are awarded with an official certificate.
In addition to saving departments time from creating the training materials, V-VICTA further saves time through the curriculum’s structure. All modules can be broken into 15–30-minute intervals for optimal roll call learning, or if one’s schedule allows for quick periods of training. This method known as “interleaved/interwoven training” ensures officers receive quality training without sacrificing extensive periods of time.
One of our recent curricula is our Special Populations: Autism Awareness training. In 2021, the CDC has discovered that 1 in 44 children has been diagnosed with autism, making this training critical for all officers, as they are likely to eventually encounter someone on the spectrum. Those with autism may have difficulty communicating and exhibit repetitive behavior and/or speech patterns, so officers must know how to properly recognize the signs and interact.
To first educate officers, the Autism Awareness curriculum provides instructors with a lesson plan and presentation that teaches some of the more common signs of autism, including: avoiding eye contact, hand flapping, rocking back and forth, resistance to control, etc. This is paired with a training scenario featuring SARRC CEO Daniel Openden, who goes into further detail. After gaining this understanding, officers are able to practice their skills with the corresponding scenarios. Actual adults with autism are featured in the scenarios to provide police the chance to see real-life examples of autistic behaviors.
In creating these materials, several VirTra clients participated in review and early beta testing of both the curriculum materials and scenarios. After months of research, hard work, testing, filming and certification, Autism Awareness was ready to be used on VirTra’s simulators. Now, dozens of agencies around the United States are using scenarios that can assist them in recognizing the signs of autism.
Besides Autism Awareness, other available courses include the following (with more to come):
Future courses that are in development and set to be released to VirTra’s law enforcement clients include duty to intervene, infectious diseases and deaf/hard of hearing.
Getting started with using V-VICTA is easy. All current VirTra clients have access to the materials. New courses that come out are installed on annual service trips, ensuring that agencies don’t miss out on any coursework as it launches. VirTra has simplified the process so that all you need to do is access the files, review the materials and then teach your class.
Training is a critical component for law enforcement, but the quality of the training is just as important. With lives on the line, and the dangerous atmosphere that comes with the job, instructors must train their officers to the highest level of preparedness. V-VICTA serves as one of the best and easiest resources, with no hassle, as it comes free with all law enforcement simulators. Start training your officers in the most modern, powerful, stress-inoculating simulators on the market. Talk to a VirTra representative to get started.